Comment: Ability to change tack is key

Comment: Ability to change tack is key

The cruise sector needs to adapt to the UK’s demographic make-up, says Clia Europe's Andy Harmer

There is a great saying from Charles Darwin that is as relevant today as it was in 1859: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

The same could be said for travel agents, organisations and, in fact, complete industries, as responding to changing consumer demand, behaviour, technology and trends is a vital part of success. Businesses that do not adapt will fall behind and struggle in an already competitive market.

The customer continues to evolve, both in terms of the holiday experiences they seek and in themselves and their ‘make-up’. An ageing population presents the industry with an ever-growing over‑55s segment that has more disposable income, time and enthusiasm to travel than ever before.

In addition, more multigenerational groups are choosing to travel together and we’re seeing a rise in holidays booked by the so-called millennials; both trends are likely to have a profound influence on the industry. In the coming years, we will have a distinctly different holidaying population from the one we recognise today.

Search for authenticity

At the same time, holiday preferences are also changing. We are more likely to look for increasingly authentic experiences, to ‘sight-do’ rather than sightsee, to learn and to grow, and to be more connected.

Responding to these changes is something in which the cruise sector has expertise – investing billions in new ports and destinations, and onboard and shore-side experiences.

Last year, an array of ships launched, all stamped with their own personality. The new vessels included more than 30 river ships, and brought, among other things, Food Heroes, skydiving and a male ‘godmother’.

Sellers of cruise holidays must also respond to these ongoing changes: the way in which we present cruise holidays, the language that we use and the people that we target. Such have been the profound changes to customers and the cruise industry that 2016 is the perfect moment to update our approach.

At a Clia UK & Ireland event in December, our chair, Lynn Narraway, identified that the language within cruise is more likely to reflect our maritime history than what it really has to offer as a modern, exciting and unbeatable holiday choice.

Among ourselves, it may still be appropriate to talk about tonnage, staterooms and crew, but to today’s customers, particularly those who have yet to cruise, we should adopt the recognisable language of holidays.

Resonating with target markets

When talking about a thoroughly modern industry, we can refer to chefs from Jamie Oliver to James Martin, about Grease the musical, about Starbucks and Lego, and about experiences that resonate with our target markets, from seniors and multi-generational families to millennials.

In this modern, cool and exciting sector, there will be much to talk about this year: 12 ocean and more than 20 river ships are being launched, all bringing their own unique experiences to an industry already rich with outstanding holiday choices.

In the words of Charles Darwin, it is time to be responsive to change.

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